Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff per district probate office and general probate office in each of he years 2011 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5142/18]
160. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the annual overall budget of each probate office in each of the years 2011 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5143/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.
The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. Probate functions are also carried out by County Registrars at District Probate Registries in 14 provincial court offices.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the Probate Office is funded and resourced from the overall budget allocation made to the Superior Courts Directorate which has responsibility for the administration of this Office. There is no specific budget allocation for the Probate Office and therefore it is not possible to provide the budgetary data requested by the Deputy. The number of staff currently assigned to the Probate Office is 21.5, which includes an increase of 5.5 staff to this Office in the last 12 months to target delays in the processing of probate applications.
The Courts Service has also informed me that District Probate Registries operate as an integral part of each relevant Combined Court Office and that there is no specific budget allocation for the administration of probate services in District Probate Registries and therefore, again, it is not possible to disaggregate the specific budgetary data requested by the Deputy. All Combined Court offices provide services within the overall budget allocation provided to the Circuit and District Court Directorate, which has overall responsibility for the management and administration of that budget across all offices within the Directorate including the District probate function.
The Courts Service has also advised that the staffing of the District Probate Registries forms part of the overall staff structure within the Combined Court Office. Staff are allocated to Combined Court offices on the basis of the entire spectrum of services provided including the delivery of probate services. The allocation of staff resources within an office at any given time is a matter for the local office manager based on business priorities and demands particularly in relation to the support of the judiciary in the administration of justice. It is therefore not possible to provide data in relation to the actual number of staff assigned to probate duties in any given year.
However, as the Deputy may be aware, the Courts Service is currently undertaking a review of the delivery of probate services and this is expected to be completed early this year. As part of the information gathering exercise undertaken as part of the review, the Courts Service undertook an assessment of the number of Full Time Equivalent staff assigned to Probate duties in each of the District Probate Registries. The outcome of this assessment is provided in the table below. The County Registrar fulfils the role of District Probate Registrar and has an input into the administration of the Probate function in each office.
Staffing in District Probate Registries
|Office||Counties served||No. of staff for probate (Full Time Equivalent)|